Monday, August 27, 2012

August 15--Crocodiles and death defying roads

We stayed in some pretty incredible places (5 star hotels, resorts, nature preserve lodge, ultra modern, and some bungaloos), but my favorite place to stay, by far, was Kayak Lodge. It wasn't the fanciest place we stayed, but the hosts, Bernal and Merlene, were so charming and kind and made us feel like family that I'd recommend this place to everyone. Not only did they help us with tours, gave us recommendations, but invited us to spend the evenings with their friends watch the football (soccer) game.

Door to our suite

We were upgraded to the two bedroom suite and loved it's charm.

Interior views

 We loved the porch right on the Mangrove canal even more. It was great to sit out there at night and just listen to the sounds of the swamp. We tried to coax the monkeys (we even bought them fruit) to come and join us, but they seemed to like visiting when we weren't around.

Our balcony on the canal


One of my goals was to get a picture of me holding a monkey. No such luck. :( Next trip!





We loved Merlene


Who knew that one of the most difficult parts of planning our trip would be actually finding out what time church was at. LDS.org and mormon.org proved to be very insufficient and even the institute program came up short. Luckily, we ran into the sisters on Saturday afternoon and they were able to tell us what time church was at. The branch was warm and welcoming and I thought about how much better the church would be if every person felt that loved and accepted.

In the 1970's the local production of Banana's took a hit, and so they turned to  growing African Palms production. There were  passed acres upon acres of these beautiful groves all over Quepos. According to Bernal, palm oil production is actually really hard work and done by mostly Nicaraguans. We may have been warned not to go into the groves because of the poisonous snakes, but when would poisonous snakes ever stopped us before.






Our big adventure for the day was the 3+ hour drive to Monteverde  and the stunning Cloud Forest and Reserve. Everything I read about the drive mentioned how crazy the road to Monteverde was and they weren't lying. It was windy, steep, and utterly terrifying. Luckily, Rachel was a rock star and and drove the scariest part of the road because I'm not sure if I'd been able to do it.




A glimpse of how windy the roads were.
We had to see the Crocodiles on the Tarcoles River and they were something to behold. The two dozen or so we counted were huge and we were 100 feet up. I don't even want to imagine what they looked like up close.





After a long drive it was nice to end up at a really nice restaurant where we got yummy food...we (AKA Laura) may have gotten a little slap happy at dinner.

the carrots were the best I've ever had




Monday, August 13, 2012

Costa Rica--River Rafting (April 14- part 2)

After the morning spent in Manuel Antiono, we headed into the mountains outside of Quepos to run Chorro section of the Naranjo River.  BEST RIVER RAFTING ADVENTURE--EVER!

The Chorro wound through six miles narrow canyons with waterfalls, rock overhangs and gorgeous scenery. But the best part was definitely the 12 class IV and V rapids we tackled. You know you're in for an amazing time when before they'll even let you onto the river, they check to make sure not only can you swim, but they send you down the river to be practice being rescued. And since our boat did flip and we did need to be rescued, I'm glad those rescuing us knew what to do.  After hearing about other tourists adventures with other companies, I'm so glad that we went with H2O Adventures as I felt the guides really knew what they were doing and that expertise was well worth the higher price--especially when the two guys in your boat are a little hung over. An added bonus was that the guides we're all VERY good looking as as the only girls on the trip, they showered us with attention. Why don't the boys at home do that?

The very first rapid we hit was crazy and tossed us all around pretty good. I really thought I'd broken my nose after a huge hit and thought that if it kept up there would be no way we all wouldn't finish without broken bones.  And for a few of the crazier rapids, I saw the small, rocky, narrow passageway and didn't know how we'd even be able to maneuver our rafts through it, or if we did it would be at the peril of our own life.

Gearing up

This is the rapid we capsized on
being rescued

being rescued
finally into the boat


heading into one of the "tamer" rapids




Some of the amazing views along the way







Because the food and the view couldn't be beat, we headed back to the same restaurant. I loved the fish Casado, and whatever fish it was was some of the tastiest I've eaten. We all ordered different drinks and my starfruit drink was the favorite.
The traditional Costa Rican Casado


Melanie and Laura enjoying their drinks

Bottoms up

What's not to love when you end a day with this.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Costa Rica--Manuel Antiono (April 14)

In 2011, Forbes magazine listed Parqu Nacional Manuel Antonio as one of the 12 world's most beautiful national parks. After just spending a few minutes in the park, I could see why. It's hiking trails wind you up through the rainforest, before spitting you out along the beach.  With very quick eyes you can see over 100 species of mammals, almost 200 species of birds and hundreds of different type of  insects and bugs.  We didn't get a guide, but as the wildlife is almost impossible to both spot and identify, I wish we had.


Highlights of the park
  • Being driven to the park by our cute hotel owner Bernal and their dog.
  • Monkeys!!!!!
  • Iguana stalking
  • huge plants
  • breathtaking views of beaches
  • playing in the ocean



Park entrance











Paradise












Playing in the "playa" aka Spanish word for beach.


Iguana stalking. We saw more Iguana's and lizards than any other animal.


I LOVED seeing the all of the monkeys. You can find three of the four monkeys found in Costa Rica in this park.